Africa’s best ever year for professional surfing was launched in Durban this week, when the 2017 WSL Africa schedule, featuring 13 events and a total of R13 million in prize-money, was unveiled to announce the inaugural Volkswagen SA Open of Surfing presented by Hurley.
Taking place at locations that range from Lamberts Bay on the West Coast to Durban on the East Coast, and including an event in Morocco co-sanctioned with WSL Europe, the schedule comprises events for men, women, junior (18 and under) men and women and also incorporates outreach programmes designed to spread the story of surfing.
The local events will be a huge benefit to South Africa’s current and future surf stars who will be able to accumulate prize-money and coveted World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) ranking points at their home breaks, and without having to incur exorbitant international travel costs. The points will also qualify them for entry into the major events overseas.
The season starts with the Nelson Mandela Bay Surf Pro presented by Billabong from 7-9 April, the first WSL rated event ever to be staged in Port Elizabeth. Featuring QS1,000 rated events for men and women, plus JQS1,000 rated events for junior men and women, the three-day tournament offers a total prize-pool of R80,000. It is the first of five events in the City Surf Series.
Next up is the Buffalo City Surf Pro, presented by Reef Wetsuits over the Easter weekend (15-17 April), where pro surfing returns to East London for the first time in a decade. The Corona Durban City Surf Pro is next, presented by Quiksilver (21-23 April), both offering the same format and prize-money as the Port Elizabeth event.
Then, 20-21 May sees the BOS Cape Crown, presented by Billabong in Cape Town, the first of three stand-alone JQS1,000 events for junior men and women to include the Billabong Junior Series events at Ballito (27-29 June) and Cape St Francis (22-25 Sep). Points from these events will also count towards the 2017 WSL Africa Junior titles, and selection of the four men and two women who will represent the region at the World Junior Championships in Australia next January.
The second annual Vans Surf Pro Classic at Lamberts Bay (2-4 June) has added a QS1,000 women’s event to the men’s and junior men’s events this year, before the focus moves back to KwaZulu-Natal for the inaugural Volkswagen SA Open of Surfing in Durban (14-18 June). This men’s event carries a QS3,000 rating and a R1 million prize-pool alongside QS1,000 women’s and junior men’s and women’s events.
Competitors in all four categories will be logging up the air miles as they return to Big Bay in Bloubergstrand for QS1,000 and JQS1,000 rated events in the Jordy Smith Cape Town Surf Pro, presented by O’Neill, (23-25 June) under the iconic landmark of Table Mountain.
Then it’s back to the mid-winter warmth of KZN for the Ballito Pro, presented by Billabong, where the women’s event runs between 30 June to 2 July. The R3.3 million, QS10,000 rated men’s event will feature 100 of the world’s best surfers from 3-9 July.
All of the world’s top 34 ranked surfers will be in action at Jeffreys Bay from 12-23 July in the newly named Corona Open J-Bay, the sixth of 11 stops on the Samsung Galaxy WSL Championship Tour, where they compete for a share of R7.5 million and ranking points in the race for the 2017 world surfing title.
The final WSL Africa event for men and women is the co-sanctioned Anfa Place Casablanca Pro in Morocco from 12-17 September, which offers QS1,500 rated events for both categories.
‘I’m proud and honoured that WSL Africa has now grown to the point where the country’s current and future surf stars can compete in locally based events and advance their careers by earning enough rankings points and prize-money to qualify for major events elsewhere without having to spend a small fortune chasing around the globe,’ said long-serving WSL Africa Operations Manager, Colin Fitch.
‘My sincere appreciation goes to the local authorities and the SA surfing industry for their support, and we welcome the contribution from sponsors like Volkswagen, Corona, Red Bull and Jordy Smith. Huge thanks also to our marketing agents, Accelerate Sport, and to Surfing South Africa and its Districts who are great partners in this region. And finally, this goal could not have been reached without the input of WSL Africa’s dedicated staff, and of course our surfers whose continuing support is the reason we now have one of the WSL’s strongest regional schedules of events.’
The Cell C Goodwave, which is an invitational one-year Waiting Period event for the best waves at New Pier in Durban, has received a specialty sanctioning from the WSL. The one day event offers a R100,000 prize-purse to the winning surfer.
The five events making up the City Surf Series will each host activities coordinated by Surfing South Africa, the national controlling body for the sport, and run by the outreach projects in the various locations, designed to foster and encourage surfing among young people, regardless of their background.
Picture of the inaugural Volkswagen SA Open of Surfing courtesy of WSL
2017 WSL Africa Schedule of Events
7-9 Apr – Port Elizabeth Nelson Mandela Bay Surf Pro pres. by Billabong
15-17 Apr – East London Buffalo City Surf Pro pres. by Reef Wetsuits
21-23 Apr – Durban Corona Durban City Surf Pro pres. by Quiksilver
20-21 May – Cape Town BOS Cape Crown pres. by Billabong
2-4 Jun – Lamberts Bay Vans Surf Pro Classic
14-18 Jun – Durban Volkswagen SA Open of Surfing pres. by Hurley
23-25 Jun – Cape Town Jordy Smith Cape Town Surf Pro pres. by O’Neil
l 27-29 Jun – Ballito Billabong Junior Series #1
30 Jun-9Jul – Ballito Ballito Pro Women & Men pres. by Billabong
12-23 Jul – Jeffreys Bay Corona J-Bay Open – Men’s WSL Championship Tour
12-17 Sep – Casablanca Anfa Place Casablanca Pro
22-25 Sep – Cape St Francis Billabong Junior Series #2
31 Dec-1 Jan – Durban Cell C Goodwave